You can run for office you just can’t say that you are.
When Paul Wagemann, during the three-minute public comment period at the March 17th Lakewood City Council meeting, announced his intentions to run for state legislative office he was told that was not allowed.
Not that he couldn’t run for office but that he couldn’t say that he was.
There’s a time and a place for stating your case – like knocking on 40,000 doors which Wagemann has done – but city hall isn’t one of ‘em evidently.
An article posted here in this publication drew a response from Lakewood City Council by way of a state legal-type that in fact “allowing a person to speak during a council meeting and announce his candidacy and describe his qualifications would be a violation of RCW 42.17A.555.”
Perhaps the only document more convoluted than the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) is the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) rules and regulations for fishing in Washington.
A whopping 136pp. – not counting ads – there’s seaweed rules, beach rules, crab rules, shrimp rules, general rules, special rules and new rules to replace the old rules. There’s even a handy index on locating rules and a link to find the rules that didn’t make the rule book.
And of course the more rules there are the more the need to hire those to ensure the rules are followed.
So you’ll forgive me – or not – but RCW 42.17A.555, just to be clear, declares, in layman’s terms, that no elective official, sub-official, or unofficial official connected officially by family or as employee or as an appointee to the official official may officially use, allow to be used, or authorize any use directly or indirectly, surreptitiously or overtly, in their official capacity anything including but not limited to paper clips, postage stamps, or public speaking opportunities on city property while in the pursuit of elective office without the express written consent of the official agency charged with authorizing all the above.
Which isn’t going to happen.
So don’t even.
Oh, and then probably should add this: any unauthorized use is expressly prohibited.
There. That should over it.
Or it would except that there are exceptions.
The exceptions to the rules include this set of caveats – clearly subject to legal interpretation and found as best as the location could be identified: RCW 42, Section A, Subsection 17, paragraph A, item 555, sub-sub exception 1, sub-sub exception b, and sub-sub exception 2), with ‘whereas’ introductions omitted:
‘As long as advance notice is given; the meeting is open to the public; “members of the public are afforded an approximately equal opportunity for the expression of an opposing view”; and even – even – elected officials are responding to a specific inquiry.
For example, how ‘bout this:
‘Are you or are you not running for elected office and if so why?’
Then it would appear it’s A-OK for the inquiree to respond.
In other words – again subject to legal interpretation – a candidate could actually be invited to share why he cares enough about his community – enough to labor on their behalf in the legislature.
Equal time allowed for his opponent, of course.
In the interest of an informed electorate.
Of course there’s another exception and that’s to call your announcement a press conference which makes null-and-void all the above and you can say, sans slander, what you want.
Or so RCW 42.17A.555 seems to say.
If in reading this you got lost somewhere along the way, not to worry. The legal consultant in the “Local Government Success” department for advising jurisdictions within the state has suggested that the Lakewood City Council update its rules for what you can say and what you can’t and that is now underway at 6000 Main Street.
Which, if research from the previous article related to this topic is accurate, would make Lakewood precedent-setting in adding the soon-to-be-published RCW-relevant rules to its current rules.
Just to be clear.